“It gets hot here in summer, I don’t want dark shingles on my house to make my electricity bill increase.”
One of the most common misconceptions for homeowners is the extent that shingle color affects insulation. Does shingle color affect temperature and insulation? The answer: not nearly as much as you think it does.
Darker shingles do absorb more heat, this is true. In summer a darker roof will measure hotter than a roof with lighter color shingles. However, if you stuck a thermometer to both of those roofs in the middle of a South Carolina summer, they would both exceed temperatures of 120 – 140 degrees. It’s hot. No shingle in 90 degree weather is going to be “cool,” regardless of it’s color.
The same rule is true in winter, just with the reverse of the colors. Though black and dark grey shingles will absorb more light in winter, therefore being a little warmer, it’s not enough to affect insulation. If the weather is calling for frost or snow, all roofs will ice and all attics will be filled with cold air.
When measuring the effect shingle colors have on attic temperature, air underneath a roof with a darker shingle is only about 8-10 degrees hotter than it’s light shingle counterpart. While this might sound like a lot, imagine walking into an attic that is 90 degrees warm. Now walk into an attic that is 98 degrees. Both are hot and uncomfortable. The “cooler” attic is by no means creating a cool beach breeze.
The biggest factor in keeping your heating and air bills low and preventing your A/C from running all of summer is going to be insulation and ventilation. If your attic or ceiling is properly ventilated, that will allow hot air to most easily escape, instead of getting trapped inside the house. Electric fans do the best in generating this air flow, as they actively suck out hot air, preventing the pressure cooker situation so many attics have.
Good roofing materials and well sealed insulation will also help keep the house warmer in winter. It will prevent hot air from leaking out and escaping to the outside. Instead, it reminds indoors and keeps the home toasty throughout winter.
As attic ventilation and insulation has the biggest effect on the temperature inside a house, it’s recommended not to choose a shingle color on desired indoor temperature. Instead, choose a shingle color that complements the siding and exterior of a home. A shingle color that is visually pleasing to the eye will leave a homeowner much happier in the long run, as their energy bill will remain relatively unaffected.
The one exception to this rule is a house using solar reflective shingles. These are sometimes know as cool roof shingles. These shingles have either a coating on them or granules mixed in with the shingle composition which reflect the sun’s infrared rays at a higher rate than standard asphalt shingles. The reflection of these rays does prevent as much light from permeating the shingles. Therefore, the shingles stay cooler, as does the attic beneath the roof.
Choosing a solar reflective roof can positively impact your energy bill and save you money, as well as wear and tear on your HVAC system. The trade off is these shingles naturally cost more than average to install on a roof. If you’re having a roof replacement that is covered by your insurance company, you’ll likely have to pay extra to upgrade to solar reflective shingles if that is what you want.
Unless committing to an energy saving shingle, like solar reflective shingles, then your best bet is to make your decision based on which color you like the most. As the darkest shingle will only heat an attic slightly more than a light grey one, the end result is negligible. Instead, choose a shingle color that visually you enjoy. It will make a homeowner happier to see a color they like on their roof and one that compliments the siding of the house, than a color which will save them 5 degrees on attic temperature.
Think of shingles like hair color – it’s one of the very first things you will notice. Especially as some homes are 40% roof, the curb appeal of a house can be made or broken by the shingle color.
If you ever are curious or want to know more about specific shingles, color matching, durability, or the insulating properties of them, give your local roofer a call! They will be well versed in comparing shingles across all the major manufacturers, as well as know best what works in your area. Roofing companies generally have contractors come out to homes for free consultations, so you can always request they send someone to look at your house and offer custom advice when choosing a shingle.
Check out this next article on roofing felt!
Learn more about what residential roofing involves and the way we conduct roof inspections!